Welcome to the NHK (NHKにようこそ！) is a 24 episode dramedy anime by Studio Gonzo from 2006 based on a manga based on a novel. Those of you aware of my feelings toward Gonzo may be surprised to see it here, well this is my “exception that proves the rule”.
Satou is a 22-year old NEET (not in employment, education or training) who hasn’t been able to leave his apartment in over a year. One day after doing some cheap mail order drugs his refrigerator and TV convince him that everything in life is a conspiracy by the NHK television station to make people never want to leave home. This starter is almost unrelated to the actual plot, most of which involve him teaming up with a neighbor to try and make a visual novel game and his getting dragged into a strange girls project to “cure” NEETs, but it gives you an idea of the kind of mindset Satou has i.e. an extremely unstable one, as he sets off on a series of somewhat episodic adventures with depression.
Welcome to the NHK works by straddling a very fine line. Its a dark comedy about several people with serious psychological issues that manages to find humor in some of the absurd and over the top things they do, while also never making fun of them for their issues and sympathizing with their efforts to try and better themselves. The novel’s author used parts of his own life experiences for the basis of the plot and the ‘realism’ of how the characters view themselves shows through in that, this is a show that understands social anxiety and depression better than anything else out there. It also understands there is no “magic cure” for what ails them, so while the ending can broadly be considered happy its very much them just taking the first step in a long line of needed changes.
Did I mention the cast was full of people a half step away from suicide? Yeah, that. The author has also said how he can’t go back and reread his own novel because too much of it reminds him of a very dark time in his life that he doesn’t want to revisit. You really need to be in the right mindset for this otherwise its going to be a very difficult watch for any length of time.
Weeb Level: 1/10- While they make some references to stuff like visual novels and broad anime genres, most of it is about college people trying to face life.
Fanservice: 2/10- the animation style really doesn’t lend itself to fanservice and it wants to spend its time in its characters heads, not ogling their bodies. You just occasionally get glimpses of Satous libido in his head.
Quality: 8/10- As noted in the header, I profoundly do not like Studio Gonzo but this will always be a great show. Its just very difficult to rewatch sometimes.
Where to watch: Hey, something you CAN watch online right now, albeit only on Funimation with Amazon having it for rent/buy online. Crunchyroll used to have it, looks like they lost it in the great Funi split of last year.